Three to Tango (1999)

Three to TangoStarring Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell, Dylan McDermott, Oliver Platt, Cylk Cozart, John McGinley, Bob Balaban.
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna & Rodney Patrick Vaccaro.
Directed by Damon Santostefano.

Grade: B-

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

One of the writers of Three to Tango, Rodney Patrick Vaccaro, has also written and published a play called Stop Me If You've Heard This One. So, to borrow from Vaccaro, stop me if you've heard this one:

Three to Tango is a love triangle, a wacky screwball comedy featuring members of the casts of Friends and Party of Five


Matthew Perry plays Oscar Novak, an anxious guy who's a bit clumsy around the ladies–


Oliver Platt is the jowly Peter Steinberg, Oscar's worldly sidekick–


Oscar and Peter are a team of architects who are hired by a wealthy tycoon named Charles Newman (Dylan McDermott). Through a series of errors and misunderstandings, Charles develops the impression that Oscar is gay–


–and, because he assumes Oscar isn't a threat, Charles asks Oscar to spy on his mistress, Amy Sheppard (Neve Campbell). Naturally, Oscar falls heads over heels in love with her–


–but can't bring himself to tell her the truth–


Matthew Perry and Oliver PlattOK, you get the picture. Three to Tango does not cover any new ground. It's a typical romantic comedy, with a typical premise, a typically too-good-to-be-true romantic interest, a typical social message, and a typically convenient ending, in which Oscar gets off the hook way too easily. It's like a sitcom, but with better sets and no laugh track.

So why is Three to Tango funny? Why is it a totally pleasant time at the movies? The answer: Matthew Perry. You probably know his nervous, uptight routine by now, because he does it as Chandler every week on Friends. But he does it so well! He is by far the funniest male cast member. His delivery and comic timing are impeccable. Though he's basically playing Chandler again in Three to Tango, he leaves the distinct impression that he is capable of much, much more. The Oscar/Chandler character covers a wide range of moods and emotions (unlike, say, David Schwimmer's Ross character, who is always whining or "being sensitive"), and Perry handles them all smoothly.Neve Campbell

Most of the other cast members stay close to home as well. Neve Campbell is always–well, Neve Campbell. She's a watchable actress, but she's always the same. She does make a reasonably appealing romantic interest, however, and she has a brooding quality that suits her character, a woman who is attracted to unattainable men and doomed relationships. Similarly, Oliver Platt is Oliver Platt. Provided his screen time is limited, he is an asset. He can deliver a one-liner capably, and he was born to play the best friend in a romantic comedy.

Dylan McDermott is the only actor who departs from his usual persona. Charles is, as the "other man" in a romantic comedy always is, a complete jerk. McDermott plays him unrestrainedly over-the-top, and it's an uneven performance–sometimes funny, and sometimes you wonder what the heck he's doing.

Three to Tango is proof that formula can be entertaining. Of course, if you can't stand formula no matter what, or if you don't like Matthew Perry, then you should probably avoid Three to Tango. But if you happen to agree that Perry is funny, Three to Tango makes a good rainy-day matinee or video rental. If you find that I've led you astray, you can always entertain yourself by pondering why all Neve Campbell characters have some kind of lesbian experience, or why Matthew Perry's hair is orange.

Review © November 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Warner Bros.

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